Dave Bautista


The Royal Rumble is a week away. As always, WWE has only announced about two-thirds of the 30 participants in the titular men's and women's battle royals. And with this year's WrestleMania card looking particularly uncertain, the potential for surprise entrants in the two matches is exciting. Here are five wrestlers I could see filling those mystery spots in the men's and women's Royal Rumbles:

1. Batista. "The Animal" is heavily rumored for a WrestleMania match this year if he isn't filming "Dune" at the time. If so, or even if not, I could see him showing up as a surprise entrant. Whether it's to set up his match at April's big show or just to deliver fans a memorable moment, Batista would be very well-received by the Royal Rumble crowd. What a change from 2013.

2. Shawn Michaels. The status of "The Heartbreak Kid's" retirement is a mystery, but after having his first match in eight years at The Show We Should All Just Forget About, Michaels sure seems like he's in play for the Royal Rumble. Maybe he'll set up his rumored WrestleMania match. Or maybe he just wants to wipe the rotten taste of November's match out of his mouth. 

3. Shayna Baszler. It can't be long before Baszler moves to the WWE roster, and the NXT Women's Champion certainly deserves it. The Royal Rumble match would be the perfect venue to showcase her MMA-flavored brutality. And with her buddy Ronda Rousey's match against Sasha Banks on the same show, it's only a matter of time until Baszler is needed for the long-awaited Four Horsewomen feud.

4. Matt Riddle. Recent Royal Rumbles have seen WWE throw a few NXT wrestlers into the match as a sort of trial balloon. It doesn't mean they're getting called up anytime soon; Adam Cole and Kairi Sane remain on the NXT roster. But it does mean that WWE wants to see how its greater audience reacts to the lesser-known names — and how those names fare in the situation. Riddle, the fanatically popular former UFC fighter whose ring talents are nothing short of prodigious, is exactly the kind of wrestler I could see WWE giving that shot.

5. Becky Lynch. Being a full-time roster member, "The Man" doesn't exactly qualify as a surprise entrant. But since she's also wrestling Asuka for the Smackdown Women's Championship at the show, it's uncertain whether Lynch will miss out on her chance to earn a golden ticket to face Ronda Rousey for the Raw championship at WrestleMania. And if her music doesn't play after one of those 30 buzzers, the fans will not be pleased. Of course, WWE could try to avert another Daniel Bryan-style revolt by running the women's Royal Rumble before Lynch's match. And the company has already prevented the dejection of not seeing Lynch enter at No. 30 by giving Carmella the spot. Still, anyone but Lynch winning the match risks having their big moment drowned out by chants of "Becky!"

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.


Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.